Aspire Housing Puts A Cork In It

A prominent regional housing association has notched up an impressive ‘first’ with its innovative use of cork as an eco-friendly insulating material.

Aspire Housing is believed to be the first in Britain to adopt the unconventional solution in a major contract, which has dramatically extended the life of dozens of post war steel framed houses.

The natural material – which is obtained from the bark of a specific oak tree – has the double benefit of providing thermal insulation as well as sound proofing in the ‘non traditional’ homes where it is being installed around Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The Cussins homes were built immediately after the war to provide much-needed housing in mining villages throughout North Staffordshire. Exterior brick-faced cladding, only 75mm thick was suspended by hooks from the steel frame, with only straw panels between them and the interior plasterboard lining.

Over the years the steel and brick panels deteriorated, causing some slippage, to the point where the properties fell well below modern standards of heat and noise insulation.

Aspire Housing – working with specialist supplier Alumasc and contractor Frank Haslam Milan– earmarked £1.7 million to bring the homes up to standard, using the cork panels as wall insulation.

The initial target of refurbishing 54 of the Cussins properties is nearing completion and the finished works, which include a new roof and rainwater goods, make the properties indistinguishable from a new build home.

Dan Gray, head of asset management at Aspire Housing, said: “Aspire Housing is fully committed to transforming the quality of homes and neighbourhoods for all customers.

“This major investment not only provides warmth and insulation benefits for residents, it has also greatly enhanced the appearance of their homes and the surrounding area.”

Heating efficiency in the renovated homes is expected to improve significantly, and residents can look forward to reduced energy costs as a result.

“We believe this is the first time cork has been used so extensively in a social housing refurbishment project in this country, and it has a number of important benefits,” added Mr Gray.

“The cork comes from managed forests and is environmentally sustainable as well as providing heat and sound insulation.

“Another advantage is that we have been able to complete the work without the need to move the tenants out. It has all taken place around them with minimum disruption.”

David Cartwright, FHM’s Environmental Champion, said: “The pre-construction team worked hard for solutions which would both improve the building fabric while considering their inherent environmental impacts.

“The team favoured cork for its low carbon footprint properties together with its excellent insulation value and sound transmission qualities.”

Aspire Housing customer Carolyn Freeman, who has lived with her family for 12 years in Arnold Grove, Bradwell, Newcastle-under-Lyme, said the work has transformed her home.

She said: “The house used to be cold and damp. I used to have the heating on full in the winter and it was expensive.

“Now I’m looking forward to a winter where we can keep warmer and where the bills for heating and hot water will be much lower. The outside of the house also looks much better now and the whole street is nicer too. It’s like having had a new home.”

Aspire Housing resident Stewart Geagen, whose home in Bamber Place, Chesterton, was recently renovated, said: “You have to expect a bit of mess and noise when you have work like this done, but to be honest I found it all right.

“This is a nice quiet area, and the people moving in seem to settle down quite happily.”

Work is expected to be finished in August.